as soon as the storm is over I promise to send out for you

POSTED: Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:26 pm

Field a couple miles southwest of the "village."

Without a stockpile of food and the garage roof over their heads, Inferni's horses did not have the luxury of indolence. The herd roamed several miles every day, grazing on roughage and weeds and grass under a layer of snow, and much of the time Vicira spent patrolling within her territory was meant to keep tabs on her animals. While they culled the pigs and chickens and let these beasts waste away, their greatest wealth and future prospects lay in their remaining equines.

Another Aquila might have held different priorities -- but Vicira had been a horsewoman before she was a leader, and she wanted her horses to survive almost as much as she wanted the coyotes to.

While most roamed, many horses lingered closer to the makeshift corrals and the clumsy lean-tos, near their canine companions, the predatory scents that were somehow so familiar to them. Kresnik was one of these; it wasn't hard for Vici to find him when she needed to ride (while Tigana, who prioritized her food and her foal, took some time to be "caught"). When she found him today, she hauled some tack over her shoulder and led him out to the snowy marsh southwest of the tents and the caves. There she stood with him, ears pricked toward the woods, gaze expectant.

For many months now, with the interruption of war and winter, Vicira had made good on her promise to teach Nazario horsemanship. And, as she promised, much of this involved teaching him the work involved. He was shown how to clean hooves, muck stalls, brush dirty coats, and place tack. But she'd yet to teach him how to ride a horse properly, other than letting him sit on their backs when he was newly-shifted when she led them along boring trails after lessons.

Things had finally settled to the point where she could give him proper attention again, and Vicira knew that she -- and likely he -- needed the distraction.

Her eyes flicked skyward, and thinned against the middday sun.

The boy should be here soon.

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POSTED: Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:29 pm

my heart was flawed, i knew my weakness

He would've never voiced his dissenting words again against his Aquila after that day of her announcement. Nazario simply could not bear the look of disappointment, something like betrayal in those icy eyes of Vicira, his mentor, his friend, the closest he had to a mother than anything else in this wide world, and so he wholeheartedly threw himself at the merciful heels of her plans and staunchly defended whatever decisions she made. She was the Aquila, he was merely her protégé, cut from inheritted cloth and stitched from her design.

At nights he stayed awake; or worse, had dreams about where they had hailed from, and the Great Village ablaze while he sat by helpless to stop the growing fires and the doubtless fear that had eaten Inferni whole in the coming months.

And so to distract himself, he worked. He hunted down hares, fed Adina, Merari, Boone; he helped to watch after the slimming livestock while he himself felt the stinging pang of hunger himself. Inferni would prosper. That was his priority.

The winter cold bit through his southern-blooded pelt, and he bundled up in what he could as he raced out to the fields for his lessons from Vicira, now happening with more frequency to help distract his troubled and youthful mind, and he tripped and staggered through snowbanks, weighed by ratty clothes and a bucket of tools he thought to bring - the hoof pick, the brushes, a moth-eaten blanket that still smelled of mildewed smoke and stagnation that he had salvaged from home, and when he emerged from the woodlines, it was hard to miss him with the way vapor puffed from his narrowed muzzle, features a little gaunt from the leanness of winter, enthusiastic gold eye glimmering as he continued to quickly shuffle his way out through the snow towards the ash woman there.

"I'm here- I'm here! What's the plan for today, Vicira?"

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POSTED: Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:17 am

When he walked out of the trees, burdened by hide and tools, greeting her with the same enthusiasm of his youth, Vicira brightened. It was a wide, proud smile that graced her face just for Nazario, and she first approached him to relieve some of his burden and gift him with a quick hug.

Come here and saddle up Kresnik, Vici said, gesturing to the chestnut gelding who watched them patiently. He had a sooty handprint on his shoulder; since decorating him with stripes and bands for war, she'd gotten into the habit of smearing any leftover ash on her fingers onto her fire-colored mount. Truth be told, it was a display meant for Nazario too. I already checked his hooves and everything, so we'll be okay. She didn't want to waste much time.

She remained mum on the exact plan, instead folding her arms and watching Nazario as he went to work. Did you get enough to eat today? she asked. I have a little jerky on me. It's important you have your strength. Of course, she would prefer he had enough to eat every day, but that was not likely to happen. Neither did she discourage him prioritizing his milk-sister and her own puppies. The Aquila could wish all she wanted that it needn't come to that, but self-sacrifice was a good trait in moderation, as long as he didn't end up like Cartier.

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POSTED: Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:31 pm

my heart was flawed, i knew my weakness

Vicira beamed at him, and he could feel that warmth blossom in his chest, his smile intensifying tenfold, those rosy ears held aloft as his tail proceeded to wave a quick and jaunty beat as the woman reached forth to grasp some of his brought-items and wrap her arms around the youth in an embrace which he returned readily. Her instruction was quickly given, and Nazario hiked himself to the red horse, taking a moment to appreciate the soot that painted his coat, reverently tracing the handprint on his shoulder before he fetched the tack, throwing a blanket over the beast's back and gently patting his palm against that flank, if only to let Kresnik know where he was as he moved about the horse. A saddle followed suit, and Nazario cinched it quick and easy, pausing to assess his handiwork before he readjusted the buckles on that patient horse, more comfortably so, and checked with his fingers until he was certain.

There was a quick hum as he acknowledged her words, and glimpsed over in her direction, having to turn his head to best look at her on his poor side.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah, I'm fine, Vicira, don't worry 'bout me!" he assured, quick and dismissive with a crooked grin as he went to try and properly fit that bridle. "Thanks, though. I don't wanna waste it if someone's hungrier."

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POSTED: Tue Feb 27, 2018 10:36 am

--

Nazario worked with a fluidity and confidence that came with practice, and Vicira was pleased to see that her lessons had stuck -- become second nature. No longer did he glance to her for hint or instruction, and when he did pause it was only to re-check the girth. She thinned her eyes in pleasure.

He glanced at her, face tilted to account for his eye, and dismissed her worries with a slanted smile. Charming boy, she thought, and huffed. Her open mirth faded from her face to be replaced with something stern and mischievous all at once. She came over and checked the hackamore, then shoved a piece of jerky at Nazario's face. Your Aquila commands you eat this, she said. Like I said, you'll need it. You're riding today.

Her smirk broadened into a proper grin as she sought his reaction.

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POSTED: Tue Mar 06, 2018 1:50 pm

my heart was flawed, i knew my weakness

Ever lesson his Aquila had gifted him withw as taken to heart, as it well and should have been - Vicira taught him any and nigh all he knew, and his mind was ever a steel trap to snap and hold each inkling of knowledge for the sake of the closest motherly figure he had come to know. Breath caught in his throat and held there as the smoky-colored woman double checked his work, and there was a startled keen of a sound as a hand shoved into his face, dried meat pushing up his lips and against his gums as he tipped his head away and tipped his ears back into his dark hair. He sputtered as he reached up to grab the jerky from her slim fingers, those rosy little ears perking up again once she spoke, and assumed he had misheard.

Soft and warm like bed linens he returned her grin in earnest, and gladly popped jerky between his teeth, before that gold eye whirled and looked over Kresnik, and smoothed hands over that serape, resting a hand eagerly against the broad and ruddy shoulder of the horse, before his gaze ping-ponged between his Aquila and her steed, before ultimately settling on her.

"Really? Honestly, I'm riding today?" he prattled in a high and bubbling voice. "You think I'm ready?"

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POSTED: Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:02 pm

some pp

Vicira waggled the piece of jerky at him, and when he took it -- exclaiming like the youth he still yet was, despite his rank and scars -- she tutted. You should be ready, unless you think I'm a terrible teacher. She had put him through his paces well enough; despite her obvious favor toward him, she hadn't allowed him to skip steps or become complacent. That he had not expressed impatience or discontent boded well, too. She didn't worry about him.

Yes, silly, the Tears mother clarified a beat after, smiling.

She came to his side and brushed some dark hair from his remaining eye, an earnest glimmering gold, then patted the saddle. Up up, she said. You remember how, left foot in and swing over. Don't sit down too hard. She lingered in case he needed assistance, but he was a tall enough boy. He might end up a little too big for Kresnik, she reflected, once he filled out some more -- but by then she was certain she could find him a horse more suitable for his weight. She did not fear for her horse's back after a single day's weighty ride at the very least.

I'll lead him first so you can get the balance, she said, checking the length of the stirrups once he was seated and making a small adjustment. Don't slouch and don't squeeze with your legs so hard. Remember how we've done it before? She glanced at him then reached for Nik, speaking gently to the horse before she began to lead him forward.

You feel good? she questioned Nazario.

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POSTED: Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:27 pm

my heart was flawed, i knew my weakness

"I-I mean, of course I'm ready," Nazario offered cheekily in rebuttal to Vicira's words, feeling fingers comb spaces in his hair, and push it from his features in a warm and maternal sort of gesture that made the young del Bosque beam a sharp and pointed smile to his mentor. At the gesturing, he hopped up, fingers grasping at reins and that main before holding gingerly to Kresnik's wither. His left paw hooked up into that stirrup, other hand at that back as the youth hoisted himself into that saddle with attempted grace and minded his weight.

That gold eye watched as Vicira checked the stirrup length, and noted his tense thighs that cinched the poor, patient horse, and Nazario wet his lips, focusing on slacking legs and relaxing at the knees. His eyes were at that rusty colored mane, and he trailed his palm against the horse's neck appreciatively, before he cleared his throat.

"Okay, okay yeah-" he answered, feeling the tension in his shoulders once the Aquila had started leading the horse, expression both excited and, somehow stressed and surprised. "Um! Yeah, I'm good."

It was odd, feeling something move on his behalf, and a little dizzying as Nik meandered at his idle and gentle pace, halting only once when Nazario's knees tightened a little in an attempt to right his balancing in the saddle. "Sorry," he muttered quickly, apologizing openly between the horse and his master. "Am I doin' it right? Do I need to be doin' somethin'?"

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POSTED: Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:42 pm

She uses a western bridle for reference. :V

His nervousness was endearing; a touch of boyhood could still be found where Vicira had feared he would lose it all in the aftermath of war and injury. She flashed him smiles of reassurance but tried not to coddle as she led the horse along -- and patiently plodded Kresnik, his head bobbing and ears forward.

I'll show you how to make him stop -- on purpose -- first, she said, smirking at him. Not that I expect Nik to bolt with me here, but you need to be able to tell a horse to halt without getting overwhelmed.

She explained and showed him briefly, the slow squeeze back on the reins (Don't jerk.), the grip around the horse's barrel, the "whoa" that Nik heeded gladly. She watched Nazario carefully, seeking signs of nervousness, knowing that if he got in over his head with a spooked horse it could lead to disaster. Thankfully, Kresnik was rather bombproof and good at listening if the order was direct.

And to get him to walk again, she said, stepping away from her student to let him act on his own, cue with your legs. A nudge with the calf or heel if he doesn't listen right away. She looked him over, walking alongside. Keep your shoulders even. Your free hand will feel awkward hanging or resting there, but you'll thank me later.

She went over how to cue Nik with the reins and his legs laid against his neck and side to turn, offering up praise and grinning. He looked awkward, but he would get the hang of it with practice.

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POSTED: Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:02 pm

my heart was flawed, i knew my weakness

Nazario followed direction with an unpracticed uncertainty, and while he was stiff, he was sure that this would come to him more naturally in time, as all things did - it was the memory of trained muscle, the passage of practices spent. He would, could, put in the hours, as he had before with Vicira's guidance.

There was something so freeing from the back of a horse, even if it was at the mild plod of a walk - the way muscle moved beneath his knees was foreign and fascinating, and the tickled feel of that mane against his hand, before he finally relented his ginger hold against the withers and let his hand go slack as instructed. It did feel odd, aimless as he let it rest against his thigh. His gold eye remained focused on the back of those ears, guiding them like sights as he turned Kresnik in a slow and mellow circle, before his features shot directly to the ashy woman with a look of unbridled enthusiasm.

"Like this? I'm doing it right?" With a ginger motion he pulled back and uttered to Kresnik, who stopped and let loose a deep and patient sigh, the bridle shifting reins against Nazario's palm as the horse licked out at his lips.

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